After a couple of technical corrections by the House, the Senate passed and the President signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act on March 18 (House Bill 6201). The primary component for employers and employees to understand is the expansion of the FMLA provision and for increased paid sick leave. The bill also addresses several funding for free testing for COVID-19 and specific nutrition programs like SNAP, WIC and the Emergency Food Assistance Programs, but will not be discusses here.
Both the proposed FMLA changes and the proposed paid sick leave take effect not later than 15 days after enactment (~April 1) and will remain in place until the end of 2020.
It should be noted that all discussion herein applies only to employers with fewer than 500 employees. The law also allows for US DOL exemptions for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees where implementation would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
Eligible employees will be allowed to take leave for a “qualifying need due to a public health emergency,” which is defined as a COVID-19 emergency declared by a federal, state, or local authority. Qualifying need is limited to employees that are unable to work or telework because the employee’s son or daughter under age 18 is home due to a school or child care center closure, or due to unavailability of a child care provider, because of a COVID-19 emergency.
What happens if the employee is the one that’s sick or is caring for an immediate family member who is sick?
That employee would qualify for “traditional” FMLA leave, assuming the employee was otherwise eligible.
REQUIRED PAID SICK LEAVE
Employers (as noted above with number limitations) must immediately make available 80 hours of paid sick leave for full-time employees (or the equivalent of the average number of hours over two weeks for part time employees) for the following reasons:
- The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
- The employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in subparagraph (1) or has been advised as described in paragraph (2).
- The employee is caring for their son or daughter if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the childcare provider of the son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
- The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
Employers will be reimbursed by way of tax credits for 100% of the cash outlay to employees under this program, which can be used to lower quarterly tax estimate payments.
New FFCRA_Poster from the Department of Labor
Our friends at Valent Group have provided us with the following Summary for Employers: Coronavirus Relief Laws. Here’s another FFCRA update as of April 6, 2020 from Valent.
Should you have any compliance questions, please contact your JMF accountant or your own HR compliance firm.